Republic of Vanuatu

Republic of Vanuatu

Country Report

Multiple waves of colonizers, each speaking a distinct language, migrated to the New Hebrides in the millennia preceding European exploration in the 18th century. This settlement pattern accounts for the complex linguistic diversity found on the archipelago to this day. The British and French, who settled the New Hebrides in the 19th century, agreed in 1906 to an Anglo-French Condominium, which administered the islands until independence in 1980, when the new name of Vanuatu was adopted. Politics and society continue to be divided along linguistic lines, although those divisions are lessening over time. Coalition governments tend to be weak, and since 2008, prime ministers have been ousted through no-confidence motions or temporary procedural issues 10 times. Prime Minister Charlot Salawi has survived four no-confidence motions since taking office in 2016.


Located in Oceania, Vanuatu is an island group in the South Pacific Ocean, about three- quarters of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand.


Land Mass

12,189 sq km

Official Languages

English, Bislama, French



Head of State

Tallis Obedd Moses


Port Vila


Parliamentary Republic


This South Pacific island economy is based primarily on small-scale agriculture, which provides a living for about two thirds of the population. Fishing, offshore financial services, and tourism, with more than 330,000 visitors in 2017, are other mainstays of the economy. Tourism has struggled after Efate, the most populous and most popular island for tourists, was damaged by Tropical Cyclone Pam in 2015. Ongoing infrastructure difficulties at Port Vila’s Bauerfield Airport have caused air travel disruptions, further hampering tourism numbers. Australia and New Zealand are the main source of tourists and foreign aid. A small light industry sector caters to the local market. Tax revenues come mainly from import duties. Mineral deposits are negligible; the country has no known petroleum deposits.

Economic development is hindered by dependence on relatively few commodity exports, vulnerability to natural disasters, and long distances from main markets and between constituent islands. In response to foreign concerns, the government has promised to tighten regulation of its offshore financial center. Since 2002, the government has stepped up efforts to boost tourism through improved air connections, resort development, and cruise ship facilities. Agriculture, especially livestock farming, is a second target for growth.

Gross Domestic Product

USD 870 million total
USD 3,327 per capita

Public Debt

48.4% of GDP

Direct Foreign Investment

USD 658.2 million

External Debt



USD 44.7 million


Vanuatu Vatu (VUV)

Import - Partners

Philippines 23.9%,
Australia 16.5%,
USA 10.4%,
Japan 8.8%,
Venezuela 8%,
France 4.8%,
Fiji 4.5%,
Hong Kong 4.4%

Unemployment Rate


Export - Partners

Russia 35.2%
Australia 19.8%
New Zealand 9.8%
China 6.3%
Fiji 5.5%

Population below poverty line


IDD Country Code



Republic of Vanuatu